Because The Simpsons has been on our TVs for 28 years now, that means each and every one of its main characters is a sizable part of television history. But not all viewers are happy with that, and each year that passes brings more critical disapproval of the Hank Azaria-voiced Kwik-E-Mart workhorse Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is more frequently looked upon as a highly unflattering parody of Indian culture. And it's apparently gotten to the point where The Simpsons' crew and cast are mulling over how to handle things. According to star Hank Azaria:
I think the documentary makes some really interesting points. It gave us a lot at The Simpsons to think about, and we really are thinking about. And definitely anybody that was hurt or offended by any character or vocal performance, it's really upsetting that it was upsetting or hurtful to anybody. I think it's an important conversation, and one definitely worth having. We're just really still thinking about it. It's a lot to digest.
Hank Azaria's words are almost shocking there. Not the fact that he's apologizing, since that's normal, but that he's actually addressing the issue of Apu's perceived offensiveness at all, since it's something that's usually given a softball avoidance when it comes up. Plus, the longtime voice actor has seemingly revealed to TMZ that fans' and others' concerns about Apu have permeated the Simpsons' creative team, which means we might see some legitimate changes coming soon.
While people have been saying "d'oh" about Hank Azaria's Apu performance for years, everything really blew up with the recent release of the documentary The Problem with Apu, in which comedian Hari Kondabolu presents his respectful and strong-willed argument for why Apu is largely responsible for the long-lasting stereotypes and misguided opinions concerning Indian culture. Though Apu is just one character, he has remained the apex of Indian TV characters for the entirety of The Simpsons' run, and his broad mannerisms are suspected of limiting the presence and inclusion of Indian and other South-Asian TV characters over the years. At least in roles that aren't convenience store clerks and/or taxi drivers.
Despite facing many oddball forms of disputes over the years, from the early dismissal by George H.W. Bush to the never-ending fight over when the show's golden years ended, The Simpsons has held on and remained an American TV staple, mostly without having to change anything unless someone dies. But society has changed drastically over the last 28 years, and Apu's remaining time in Springfield may be finished sooner than one of the Kwik-E-Mart's microwavable burritos.
Considering The Simpsons' episodes generally go into production many months ahead of airing, it's likely we'll be seeing Apu for a while longer yet, but stay tuned to see if anything changes. In the meantime, you can pick up the brand new DVD set for Season 18, and don't forget that The Simpsons will air its Season 29 midseason finale on Fox on Sunday, December 10, at 8:00 p.m. ET. And to see when the animated hit will be returning, head to our 2018 midseason premiere schedule.